El Paso Orders Lockdown As Coronavirus Cases Skyrocket and US Positive Tests Reach Record High

Long lines for COVID-19 testing in El Paso.
Long lines for coronavirus testing in El Paso. Getty

The Texas city of El Paso has enforced a night-to-dawn lockdown after coronavirus cases skyrocketed to record highs while the U.S. noted its highest daily increase in diagnoses since the pandemic began.

A judge in the Texas border town ordered a daily curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. to try to stem an infection rate that has soared nearly 200% in recent weeks and resulted in hospitals and ICUs being overwhelmed by new cases.

“We are in a crisis state,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego Sunday night. “Funeral homes are preparing for a surge. We had 160% increase in our positivity rate since Oct. 1; over 300% in hospitalizations. Currently, our hospitals are stretched to capacity. All ICUs are at 100%."

Officials announced the city's convention center would be converted to a field hospital to handle overflow hospital cases.

El Paso's plight mirrored surging cases across the country and overseas. Spain, France and Italy reimposed curfews after experiencing record spikes. Prague announced the opening of a 500-bed military hospital to deal with the Czech capital's soaring cases, which constitute the highest per-capita rate in Europe.

In the United States, the seven-day average of new cases reached an all-time high of 68,767 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The previous record of 67,293 was set in July.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted nearly 900 points at one point Monday, reacting to news of the virus spiking. In at least 37 states, COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased. 

Health officials crossed party lines to call for a national mandate on wearing masks. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and appointed by Trump, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal called "Winter Is Coming: Time for a Mask Mandate."

"A mandate can be expressly limited to the next two months," Gottlieb said, noting it's more comfortable to wear a mask in colder months. 

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is maintaining a breakneck campaign schedule in the final week before the presidential election, despite at least five aides, including his chief of staff, testing positive. Pence is defying CDC and public health guidelines that say people should quarantine themselves for 14 days if they have been within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more.

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